As pleasurable as London’s Pleasure Garden appeared to be on the surface, they have not been able to deliver the bums on seats predicted, and now with the Olympic games more than half way finished, the venue has locked its gates until further notice. The structures and surrounding park area had the stamp of success, now all that remains is infighting and a massive slagging match between the local authority,the staff and the organisers.
The location was a short distance from many of the Olympic sites and was a few minutes walk away from Platoon Docks station, where many of the Olympic spectators were meant to alight for their travels. Unfortunately, the venue did not predict transport running as smoothly as it has, since the start of the games. Most tourists and visitors to the area have quickly boarded trains and have travelled back to the city. The opening events for the venue had the some of the biggest names in Street Art, featuring artists like Shepard Fairey. They were hoping to bring in even more foot traffic, yet the public did not come. The traffic that was expected did not materalise during the opening and it has not been coming since the Olympics opened. Unfortunately the organisation has now voluntarily opted for administration and is seeking help from the council to restructure future projects.
This space was doomed from the beginning, located outside of the city and on the furthest reaches of London, big names were not enough to bring in crowds. The organisers of the London Pleasure Gardens brought in several events involving the Street Art community, artists who have had a huge impact on the emerging work created around London and the world. Shepard Fairey who is best known for his image used in the presidential election of Barack Obama in the United States, constructed his largest piece of work in the UK, on the very site of the London Pleasure Gardens. It received international press coverage. It is an impressive piece of work taking up almost the entire side of a derelict mill. This projected a rather industrial atmosphere to the nearly deserted surroundings. Part of the joy of this venue was the surrounding spaces and the views onto a stark landscape a short distance from a major metropolis.
As visitors wandered along the dusty and all too often empty pathways that connected the Pleasure Garden’s, creative and interesting art work from a mix of architects and small design companies, freckled the landscape with character. It is perhaps a concern that most of the artists exhibiting pieces on the site were known, but not household names. They were however expected to draw the crowd a show of Tracey Emin, or Banksy would bring. This was an unrealistic expectation from the outset.
The predicted gate for the Pleasure Garden was 35,000 visitors per day. The peak entrance has been 7,000, and most days a few hunderd people dropped by. This was not enough to make an organization such as the Pleasure Garden’s stay afloat. Administrators, are now looking into restructuring the space and finding new management. They have said that events and shows brought in less than a fraction of the audience needed. At times it seemed there were less than 100, particularly during the rainy periods, that plagued much of the opening weekend events. Even though the space is not far from London and major transport links, the perception for many Londoners is that it is indeed still too far. Adding many factors together including the weather, stress that the Olympic period would bring crowds and chaos, along with a poor selection of musicians and bands, something needed to change to make the venue more desirable.
The council has suggested that because the organisation of the Olympic games has been better than expected, people who were attending their events are not trapped in queues for transport taking them home. If public transport had been congested the area’s other attractions such as the Pleasure Gardens would have been an attractive alternative.
The artist’s who did contribute work to the events, although accomplished did not bring foot traffic, let alone a break in travel patterns, from people using the Platoon Docks and surrounding areas, as a near satellite venture. The future is uncertain for the Garden’s although the council and investors are confident that a restructuring will bring in the number of people to maintain success for this quirky and unique project in the future.
Words by: Portia Pettersen © Artlyst 2012 Image by: Portia Pettersen © Artlyst 2012